How To Handle A Petty Colleague

Question: A good friend, Alvina (not her real name), who is my colleague had fallen out over a small matter. She refused to make up despite me having tried thrice. She had told me something about another friend, Rita (also not her real name), claiming she was angry with me for not having lunch with them. I had told Rita earlier that I couldn’t make it due to urgent work, and assumed she understood. I was angry as since she knew so, why did she have to be angry with me? Hence, I texted her to ask. Rita got angry (again?) and said I scolded her (which wasn’t true). Her anger lasted for days until I said sorry (when it wasn’t my fault). Next, it was Alvina’s turn to become angry. Having asked why, she ignored me repeatedly. Rita told me that she was angry because what she told me about Rita being angry was not supposed to be said (to anyone else). It probably made her look bad.

In the whole matter, I was not at fault. Despite ten years of friendship with Alvina, she continues to ignore me. What made it more sickening was that she is my covering officer. She is the petty type who might mix personal with work matters. This worries me as she might make things difficult. I can’t believe adults can be so petty. I don’t know what to do. I can’t ignore her as she is my covering officer. Some told me if she gets personal, I would have to tell my boss. Some told me to practise loving-kindness (metta) meditation towards her. I did so and dedicated merits. It does not change anything. What should I do?

Answer: Unfortunately, like kids, adults can be petty too, if they have not grown much spiritually. We must remember not to become petty like them. Here are some tips to share on handling the situation:

[1] Ask Rita to help you clarify, since clarification is already done much on your side.

[2] Send an apology e-card if you feel you are in the wrong: http://www.123greetings.com/business/apologies You need not apologise for where you are not wrong. You can just say you would like to apologise for any misconception that might had arisen from your side. If you are worried that the strained relationship might affect work, you can add this line – ‘I sincerely hope this misunderstanding does not affect our working relationship.’

[3] For the prideful, you need to give more way before they ‘forgive’. In the mean time, there is no need to keep thinking that your relationship is strained. Just be yourself, as before, working professionally, and as if nothing negative happened. Don’t let others’ mistakes punish you.

[4] Metta meditation and sharing of merits done properly is powerful. It will change the way you respond too, in person. It is not that the practice failed, but that we need to practise more diligently. If you practise till the day you can smile at her despite her pettiness with genuine metta, it can make her rethink how she is at fault, and how magnanimous you are, and start patching up. Remember… Metta is gentle but strong, not holier-than-thou but embracing. I teach more about this in this course: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/12/course-project-rebirth-rediscover-reflect-recharge-round-6

[5] If despite the obvious good will in [2] and work is still affected, maybe it’s time to reflect this to your superior. Keep a copy of the e-card to show you were definitely sincere. Of course, this is the last resort. Us being unenlightened beings, will tend to let each other down… which is why we take refuge in the Buddha’s teachings, which will never let us down.


  • (8) Why worry or angry yourself even if it is concerning your job not to mention the greatest humankind relationship of humanity? Perhaps you have done what need to be done & the best-bet is keep quiet but always give way to accommodate ALL BEINGS with wisdom & compassion whenever possible or within one’s means or tolerance. Wasn’t Buddha once indicated the water of river-flow which is impermanent state whatsoever? Every moment is fresh moment – nothing else! Smile with cheers always!

  • Perhaps it is because Alvina values your friendship, and hence she is angry with you. She trusted you and hence told you that Rita is angry over the lunch issue. As you did not know that she was not supposed to tell anyone about it, you went to approach Rita to clarify things. However, Alvina could have felt betrayed by you (for making use of the information). Guess it is just a misunderstanding. You may want to let Alvina know that you really did not know that she was not supposed to tell you about it. Otherwise, you would have checked with her first before making use of the inforkmation. Let her know that however, it is because of her that Rita and you can be friends again. Let her know that you are thankful to her for helping you. Otherwise, you will lose Rita as a friend because of a misunderstanding. Now the same thing is happening between both of you. Tell her that you hope that both of you will not let this misunderstanding affect your 10 years of friendship. From Alvina’s point of view, she may not feel that she is petty. She may be angry because she felt betrayed by her good friend for making use of a piece of information which she shared with you (but was not supposed to be shared with anybody).

  • A person is petty most probably beacuse he/she is a rather sensitive person. That’s why other people couldn’t seem to understand why this ‘petty’ person take light issues to heart.

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